The University of Wisconsin Press
History / Education / American Studies / Gender & Sexuality / Popular Culture
Creating the College Man
American Mass Magazines and Middle-Class Manhood, 1890–1915
Daniel A. Clark
Studies in American Thought and Culture
Paul S. Boyer, Series Editor
“Examines how ‘going to college’ became that quintessential middle-class experience and, moreover, how it reshaped the archetype of the American businessman for the emergent economic base of corporate capitalism.”
—John Pettegrew, author of Brutes in Suits: Male Sensibility in America, 1890–1920
How did a college education become so vital to American notions of professional and personal advancement? Reared on the ideal of the self-made man, American men had long rejected the need for college. But in the early twentieth century this ideal began to change as white men born in the United States faced a barrage of new challenges, among them a stultifying bureaucracy and growing competition in the workplace from an influx of immigrants and women. At this point a college education appealed to young men as an attractive avenue to success in a dawning corporate age. Accessible at first almost exclusively to middle-class white males, college funneled these aspiring elites toward a more comfortable and certain future in a revamped construction of the American dream.
In Creating the College Man Daniel A. Clark argues that the dominant mass media of the era—popular magazines such as Cosmopolitan and the Saturday Evening Post—played an integral role in shaping the immediate and long-term goals of this select group of men. In editorials, articles, fiction, and advertising, magazines depicted the college man as simultaneously cultured and scientific, genteel and athletic, polished and tough. Such depictions underscored the college experience in powerful and attractive ways that neatly united the incongruous strains of American manhood and linked a college education to corporate success.
“A valuable contribution to the scholarship on the several areas it pulls together: the histories of popular magazines, the success ethic, business, higher education, and intercollegiate athletics.”
—Michael Oriard, author of Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle
Daniel A. Clark is assistant professor of history at Indiana State University.
“The book is rich in reflections about these magazine's representations of college curricula and extracurricular life, and the linkages between these and both the newly developing ideals of masculinity and the world of corporate capitalism.”
—Historical Studies in Education
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LC: 2009040636 LA
256 pp. 6 x 9 13 b/w illus.
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